Serious question, if Newcastle United had the capacity, what would the attendance be for the first game of the season v Nottingham Forest on 6/Aug/22?

Clearly, we’d be looking at far in excess of the 52,274 who turned out for the last game of the 2021/22 season v Arsenal but what would it be?

On the back of the incredible demand there was last week for the 1,000 season tickets United put on sale and thereafter for club memberships, I think a modest guess would put us at 60,000+ and I don’t think it would be extravagant to say circa 65,000 for the visit of newly promoted Forest.

Let’s remind ourselves that those numbers are for a club that went 14 games without a win at the start of last season and finished eleventh. That’s a club that has had one top half PL finish in a decade, hasn’t won a domestic trophy since 1955 and had an owner for 14 years pre-October 2021, whose contempt for the club was such he couldn’t be arsed to pay for the windows to be cleaned. His antipathy towards Newcastle United extended to refusing to permit a statue of the club’s record goal-scorer to be mounted on club land.

To go further, let’s remember in the 18 months prior to the takeover, the club had bled season ticket holders for years because of Ashley’s stewardship of Newcastle United, a steady trickle became a flood when Rafa Benitez could accept no more and left, replaced by the quisling Steve Bruce.

But here we are with a club re-born, re-energised and a support wishing the summer away to get back in the stands to see where the next stage of the club’s new era will take us.

I feel immensely privileged to have a season-ticket. I’ll be able to get to every home game next season and I know there are many who will envy me of that and I feel no smugness at the position I am in.

I came close to chucking in a life-time’s support of the club under Bruce and I’d ever been more disillusioned than when Rafa Benitez declined a spurious contract offer. I fudged my disaffection, keeping my season ticket but barely turning up for games, paying in essence to keep an empty seat. Lots of people I know were more straightforward and just chucked it altogether.

No-one blamed them and indeed much of social media and supporter discourse raged with talk of match boycotts and mass non-renewals of season tickets. The steady trickle of people who each year who found they could no longer give time and money on Ashley’s Zombie club became a flood when Benitez exited stage left and removed any illusion Newcastle United was anything but empty husk, devoid of ambition or integrity.

Here we are in 2022, with United liberated from those stultifying fourteen tears and Mags swarming back to their club. Those that chucked season tickets had never stopped loving the club, they simply could not bear to be in the stands and in their view legitimising Ashley by doing so. It was a point made strongly repeatedly for over a decade.

I confess at  being depressed by some of the exchanges I’ve seen on social media from some fans (albeit a tiny minority) sneering at those who wish to return to their club now Ashley has been removed. Wasn’t that the plan outlined by so many agitated mags during the dark Ashley days?

I’ve  been baffled by those who wish retain Newcastle United as a private members club by dent of the lack of empathy demonstrated in discussions about extending SJP or relocating to a new site permitting a much greater capacity (notwithstanding the emotions involved in leaving the only home our club has ever played at).

I should say at this point, I’m an advocate of supporter loyalty being rewarded. I am supportive of the allocation of tickets for away games on the current points based systems. It is only right those who have done the hard miles over the years have first refusal on tickets for away games.

I don’t understand the rationale for the way in which 1,000 season tickets were put up for sale last week. That struck me as a method that was administratively easy as opposed to being equitable. Neither has the club explained why it was only 1,000, notwithstanding explanations provided by supporters online which haven’t been confirmed by United. I can’t believe it would have been beyond the wit of the club to look at the season ticket holders who had walked away in 2019 and on a points based system calculate the length of time supporters had held season tickets previously (as well as away-points) invited the top 1,000 people on that list to buy the newly available season tickets.

That’s not a perfect scheme I concede but I think it offered a greater level of fairness than what we ended up with.

Nevertheless, we can cut this anyway we like; there are thousands of supporters who won’t have much of a chance of getting in to see their team play next season or possibly the season after that. On the one hand, it is brilliant supporters are so enthused they want to come back but on the other it is sad so many Mags won’t be inside SJP supporting their team.

What I desperately hope is we don’t go down the road of a new set of schisms between supporters. I may be over-reacting but I’ve read some pretty brutal comments (typically from those who lack the courage to put their names alongside them). Our club and we as supporters will face more scrutiny due to the Saudi ownership and we need solidarity amongst us. So let’s ditch the digs eh?

It’s my position Newcastle United is on the threshold of becoming the Club of the North viz the dominant football institution north of Leeds, stretching up over the Scottish borders and across to Cumbria. A Newcastle United that competes regularly at the top of the Premier League and in Europe can represent a constituency way beyond its traditional catchment areas with a growing support from an already massive base. We’re a monster of a club now but we can become bigger. To do that we need to grow the support but its not just increasing the numbers of rank and file punters like you and I.

United can also pull in a far expanded corporate base than is possible on the current SJP footprint – that is critical to increasing revenues and supporting the development of the club.

We’re also aware of the global reach of the Premier League and if we get to where we want to be Newcastle United will be an attractive destination for the football tourist. That can have a massive impact upon club revenue but a significant benefit to the local economy. Why wouldn’t we want that?

I’m writing these words as an avowed legacy fan but one who realises where our club is headed requires changes in mentality. Our core identity as an unashamed Geordie club will remain but that does not mean it shouldn’t change and evolve.

On that basis, I’d hope supporters like me who have the privilege of getting to as many Newcastle United games as I want avoid painting ourselves as a worthy elite and those on the outside as Johnny-cum-lately-glory-hunters who lacked the grit to stay the course of Mike Ashley’s soul-sapping ownership.  Those who chucked it don’t meet that description. We all know those who demonstrate how risible a proposition that is.

The simple truth of the matter is Newcastle United has to be shared with more supporters than can fit into the current stands at SJP. That just isn’t so more fans can see and support the club. It is critical we have a greater capacity for the benefit of the club in so many ways.

We know expanding SJP won’t be easy. We know Ashley’s sale of land at Strawberry Place has made expansion of the Gallowgate End problematic and no-one can come up with a solution to the conundrum that is the East Stand given the listed status of Leazes and St James’ Terrace.

Relocation? I don’t know. I’d prefer not but of more concern to me are my fellow Mags missing out on being inside the stadium and the team losing out on the support they will bring, not to mention associated revenue for United and potential economic benefits for the city.

This is a problem for all of us, those inside and out as well as a new ownership seeking to build Newcastle United as one of the biggest and most successful football clubs in Europe.

The problem isn’t one to divide; it is one to completely unify us for the good of the club, supporters and city.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

Michael Martin, @TFMick1892